Lessons from our environment forum in Bristol

  • environment

The EUROCITIES Environment Forum on ‘healthy, happy cities’ took place in Bristol on 7-9 October.

More than 80 participants from 26 cities attended the forum and the meetings of our working groups on air quality, climate change and energy efficiency; water; and green areas and biodiversity.

During the debates and work sessions we learned that:

  • When measuring the progress of a city it is important to ask the right questions. The Happy City Index, developed in Bristol, is a measurement tool that challenges the assumption that citizens’ happiness is directly linked to economic growth and prosperity. The indicators of the ‘Happy City’ are the result of a broad survey among citizens on what makes them happy. The index is based on drivers of wellbeing (external factors) and experienced wellbeing (internal factors), thus showing the role of both individuals and communities (http://www.happycity.org.uk).

  • Green areas and quality jobs are key elements of a happy city. Participants found that green spaces are essential to make cities healthier, especially for reducing stress. A study on happiness in Nuremberg demonstrated that the happiest people live in green districts.

  • The effects of air pollution on health can include decreased short term memory and IQ. These consequences are non-lethal but irreversible. Retrofitting public buses can be a cost-effective way of improving air quality: buying one new bus can cost up to 20 times more than retrofitting one Euro III bus to Euro V or VI emission standard.

  • Partnerships are vital, as changing cities need many actors and many voices. The city of Utrecht engaged more than 10,000 citizens in a city talk on sustainable energy, while Bristol created the ‘Green Capital partnership’, which brings together 800 members, including businesses, NGOs and public bodies. In a brainstorming exercise, participants highlighted the importance of building trust between partners and focusing on a shared understanding of the objectives.

  • Frankfurt’s Climate Gourmet campaign informs citizens about the impact of nutrition on climate change together with NGOs and other partners. Since 2009, the campaign has been organising events to encourage sustainable food consumption by demonstrating the effects of food production on climate, from production to transport, packaging to food preparation. The Climate Gourmet week is the campaign’s main event, and includes lectures, discussions, workshops, and generates significant interest from the media and citizens. 

  • Access and management of instruments to finance city climate projects can be challenging. Participants discussed common challenges around  lack of capacity to properly access and manage complex financial instruments. In a practical exercise we explored how to identify the appropriate financing for two examples of low-carbon transport projects, combining traditional instruments with more innovative revenue streams, such as green bonds and carbon credits.

 Our next environment forum will take place in Utrecht in March/April 2016.